Oxygen is the most important element for sustaining life on earth. It is said to constitute half of the mass of our planet. Apart from being vital for sustaining life, it is the 2nd largest consumed gas in the industry. Because of its oxidation properties, it is used in sustaining burning processes in the industry. Coming back to our point-oxygen being the vital element for sustaining life, it is transported to our lungs via respiration. After reaching the lungs, it gets dissolved into blood.
After dissolving into blood, it travels throughout the length and breadth of our bodies. How does oxygen travel to different parts of the body from lungs? It is an important question for understanding the circulation of the non-metallic element in every cell. Each cell inside our body needs oxygen to stay alive. It is needed in each cell of the body for burning of food in order to release energy, which is used for running their functions.
Now, you might just as well ask how oxygen reaches into every cell of the body. Being dissolved into blood, it travels via blood through what can be called a National Highway of blood circulation. It is said that around 2000 gallons of blood travels everyday through around 60,000 miles of blood vessels linking every cell and organ of the body.
However, taking oxygen into every cell is done in three steps. First, it is breathed from the air and is taken to the lungs. Then, it is dissolved in the blood for transportation. Lastly, it is transported to each cell in the body. There are fine capillaries that go into the walls of air sacs of lungs and it is these capillaries that carry blood into our bodies. Air sacs are also known as alveoli.
However, once oxygen reaches inside the body, it undergoes changes so that it could dissolve into a solution within blood’s plasma, which is situated within the capillaries of the alveoli. In the air, oxygen circulates as gas molecules. When oxygen is dissolved into a solution of blood, 98% of the dissolved oxygen is used up by the blood cells traveling in the vicinity. And the remaining 2% continues to be used in the solution.
Transporting the dissolved oxygen to different parts of the body is done by red cells, which are excellent vehicles for transportation. Red cells also contain hemoglobin, which contains four molecules of “heme”. What is more, heme comprises of an iron-containing pigment that can bind oxygen. However, the binding is not permanent and can be undone.